Born in Rhode Island, and a lifelong resident of this State, James Henry Hurley has been a leading figure in real estate circles of Providence for well over a quarter of a century. Mr. Hurley began life in modest circumstances, and has risen to his present position solely through his own efforts. His success has not been achieved through wealth or chance or the influence of powerful friends. He is in the broadest sense a self-made man, being both the architect and builder of his own fortune.
Mr. Hurley was born at Providence, Rhode Island, on December 24 1858, a son of John and Mary (Donahue) Hurley. Both parents were natives of County Cork, Ireland, and came to the United States in their younger years. The father was a veteran of the Civil War, serving in the United States Navy.
James H. Hurley received his education in the Providence public schools, and supplemented this training with special study in evening school. There were fifteen children in the family, twelve of whom today survive. Mr. Hurley was the second oldest, and as his parents were of modest circumstances, he was obliged to begin work while still a boy, contributing his earnings to the support of the family. Mr. Hurley started a newspaper delivery business which he developed into a paying proposition, but as he grew older he drifted into merchandising work. For ten years he was a salesman in this city for John W. Butts, Jr., a well-known hatter of Providence. At the end of this time he did business under his own name for three years, following which he was manager of the three Jerome Kennedy stores in Rhode Island for some five years. Mr. Hurley was very successful in these earlier connections, and already he was becoming known as an able and progressive business man. But through all his career he has been alert for larger possibilities than his present connection seemed to offer, and after careful consideration he resigned from his position with the Jerome Kennedy stores, whose duties had taken him to Pawtucket and Woonsocket as well as Providence.
In 1894 Mr. Hurley became associated with G. L. and H. J. Gross, well known Providence insurance firm, and organized their real estate department. From its very beginning until his resignation on June 30, 1929, Mr. Hurley was manager of the real estate department, and his services were largely responsible for the continued growth and success of the company. At its incorporation in 1897, he was made vice-president of the company. In July, 1929, with his son, James B. Hurley, he started a real estate and insurance business with offices in the Hospital Trust Building. Mr. Hurley is one of the most successful real estate operators in Providence. His judgment in the matter of business trends and property values is remarkably sound, while his knowledge of special conditions and problems in Providence is hardly equaled by any other man. Mr. Hurley’s services and opinions are much in demand and frequently consulted by large interests. In addition to his own enterprises, he is connected with other local ventures both commercial and of a civic nature. He is a director of the Providence Community Fund, of the Providence Real Estate Exchange, of which he was formerly president, a member of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and of many other organizations, including the National Academy of Science, the American-Irish Historical Society, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Providence Athenaeum, the Providence Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a former director, and others. He is a member of the Appraisal Board of the Providence Real Estate Exchange, a member of the Town Criers, and of the following clubs: the Metacomet Golf Club, of which he was formerly a director; , the Turks Head Club; the Catholic Club; the Economic Club; the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick; and the Holy Name Society of the Roman Catholic Church.
On January 8, 1901, James H. Hurley married Margaret Louise Banigan, a resident of Providence, who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. and Mrs. Hurley are the parents of one son, James Banigan, who was graduated from Brown University in 1929 with the Bachelor of Arts degree and high honors. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and is now associated with his father. The residence of the family is maintained in Providence on Catalpa Road.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.